Living in such a small town has its perks and disadvantages. Perks being that I can walk down almost any street, at any time of day, and feel perfectly safe because I won’t walk more than a block without running into someone who either knows my family or goes to church with me. Disadvantages being that I can’t walk into the gynecologist’s office without running into a nurse who either knows my family or goes to church with me.
After the nurse did my wellness check, and I updated her on the lives of my brothers-in-law, the gynecologist came in and listened to what I had to say. She took note of my pain and irregularity, and was very interested in the fact that I’d been off birth control for as long as I had. She informed me that infertility can be described as not becoming pregnant after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex. My case fit that description.
And there it was. There was the horrifying word that I hadn’t spoken out loud in the nearly two years it had been fogging up thoughts in my brain. Now it was fogging up space in the examination room. The air felt like it actually thickened around me. All of the sudden, it was as if I were a fly on the wall watching some scared, 22-year-old girl sit timidly on a table, feebly attempting to interpret what a doctor was telling her.
The gynecologist told the frightened girl that the irregularity in her periods is possibly an indication that she’s not ovulating regularly or at all. One reasoning for this could be something called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is known to be a cause of infertility. Irregularity could also be the product of a hormone imbalance. This can result in no ovulation, which, in turn, could be causing the infertility. The doctor said that the timing and intensity of the girl’s cramps might point to endometriosis. Infertility could be a consequence of endometriosis if it was advanced enough.
The girl sat perfectly still, asking no questions as the doctor went into detail of testing and treatment options for each of the possible issues. She didn’t flinch when a needle went into her arm to draw blood for the hormone workup. She even offered to hold the tiny vials of her blood after they were filled, due to the nurse’s cart being too full. She wrote down a date in her agenda book, two weeks from that day, on which she would have an internal and external ultrasound done to check for signs of PCOS. She made careful note to google what an internal ultrasound was before that date arrived.
Back in my own body, I was having a hard time grasping and retaining the information that the doctor was relaying to me. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be told that I was experiencing infertility, despite all of the warning signs I knew I’d had. Somewhere near the end of our discussion, the gynecologist heard something I said and deemed it a symptom that was highly relevant. As she gathered herself to leave the room, she said, “It’s likely that this is endometriosis.”
Being married to a physical therapist, and living with my father-in-law, who is a physician, I know that “likely” is not a term medical professionals toss around lightly. They tend to be sure of themselves before they get people worked up with confirmative words.
As I was walked out of the hospital, my thoughts raced: Ok, you can deal with this. This is something that you can go through and take care of and you don’t have to bother anyone with your emotions and you can somehow get whatever treatment is required and EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE and no one even needs to know you had a doctor appointment today. I took a few more steps into the parking lot and saw two different women being wheeled to their cars alongside their families and holding their newborn babies. I made it to my car just in time to start crying.
Liv – Authentically